Investigation into parastatals coming soon: unions

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Trade unions say Denel, Armscor, Transnet, South African Airways and other parastatals will soon come under the spotlight at a summit that will include all trade unions that are involved in the industry.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Solidarity and the United Association of SA (UASA) made the announcement after meeting Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Enoch Godongwana yesterday. The unions say “a large-scale meeting with all trade unions represented at parastatals” will be held in March “to discuss the worrying situation at each one.”

All tree unions expressed their concern about “the conditions at Denel” to Godongwana. “During the meeting the minister gave trade unions the assurance that he would investigate the conditions at Denel, look into the trade unions’ points of concern and, following a cabinet meeting on February 24, give feedback regarding the situation,” Solidarity said n a statement.

DSA posted a loss of R452.6 million for the year to March 2009, largely because of delays in the Airbus Military A400M programme and the effect of the global recession.

In addition, CE Lana Kinley and chief financial officer Sasa Methola resigned on January 12 after a disagreement with the board.

Solidarity spokesman Jaco Kleynhans says it is no secret that the parastatals are in a crisis “as the increasing management problems there demonstrate.” He says yesterday’s meeting shed some light on the government’s own concerns regarding the current situation at the parastatals. “The [deputy] minister made it clear … that the loss of skills, the poor performance of the institutions and the deficient human resources structures are of great concern to him. He definitely showed empathy with Solidarity’s concern and he is committed to rectifying the problems and straightening out the institutions.”

Meanwhile Solidarity also addressed certain questions to the minister regarding the situation at Denel. “The so-called RTCC forum was already established about seven years ago, and organised labour, Denel and the Department of Public Enterprises were supposed to be involved in discussions and investigations regarding the restructuring and transformation of Denel. However, it has completely lost steam. The planned retrenchments at Denel, and specifically the current plans at Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA), should actually have been debated at the forum first, but Denel no longer honours the RTCC agreement,” Kleynhans said.

The minister emphasised that Solidarity should now use its power to ensure that the forum functions like it should. According to Kleynhans, Solidarity will therefore refer the planned retrenchment of nearly 15% of the employees at DSA back to the RTCC before the retrenchments are allowed to go ahead.

UASA,in a desperate statement, says it wants a number of questions answered including the cause of Kinley and Methola departure. They also want to know the role of Denel’s group head office in the running of its subsidiary companies and details on money made available by government to DSA to fund its turnaround strategy, particularly how this was spent. Lastly they seek clarity on why DSA increase its workforce after retrenching some 200 workers in 2008.

Willie van Eeden, the UASA sector manager responsible for Denel workers, also said that the linking of the retrenchments with the delay of the A400M project and a fall-off in orders for the Gulfstream G150 for which DSA makes components, “doesn’t hold water”.



Meanwhile, the Engineering News reports DSA hopes to have a new CEO and CFO appointed by March 1.